For the 3rd straight game, Ristolainen was the Sabres best defenseman. However, in Florida he played better offensively than in the past few games. He was making people miss, getting shots through, and pinching down low to help the forwards. His Corsi number in the game was a whopping 72%. Dan Bylsma played him like the #1 defenseman, as Risto had 24:28 of ice time. He had an assist in the game as well.
The McCabe-Pysyk pairing played very well for their second consecutive game. Both players jumped up in the offensive rush, but one always stayed back. The two have the best chemistry of the pairings. When they were on the ice, there were few quality scoring chances by the Panthers. The two had the lowest on ice times of any of the Sabres defense at 13 and 14 minutes. If their play continues, that should increase. At least we can see Bylsma sees their offensive ability, as both were on the ice down by 1, with less than 3 minutes to play. Nice to see McCabe get his first NHL goal tonight as well.
Josh Gorges had his best game of the season. He looks improved from last season. Against Florida he played 18:22 which was 3rd among Sabres defenseman. Gorges was smooth with the puck, completing most passes out of the zone. He was a -1 on the night however, and he took the penalty in the 1st period that gave the Panthers a 5 on 3. Jaromir Jagr would score thereafter.
Tyler Ennis and Ryan O'Reilly drive each other. It seems as though one only plays well if the other does. Tonight they were creating chances all night long. Most of the time they were on the ice they owned possession. Ennis led the team with 5 shots on goal and scored on the power play in the 3rd period to make it a one goal game. Ryan O'Reilly got the assist.
When isn't Girgensons at least a B+? He brings the same game night in and night out. He is Mr. Consistent.
Sam Reinhart is improving. Tonight he did not get out muscled, out skated, or out worked. He battled on every shift, and we saw some of his skills that we've mostly only heard about. Reinhart saw his ice time go up from under 10 minutes to 12:27, 5:08 of which was on the power play. Reinhart almost completed a filthy little pass in the 2nd period, but it was broken up. He screened Roberto Luongo on Tyler Ennis's 3rd period goal as well. David Legwand was the scratch tonight, and don't expect Sam Reinhart to take his spot in the press box playing like this.
Eichel didn't stand out much in this one. Barring the toe drag set up to Evander Kane in the 2nd period. On the play, Eichel dangled Brian Campbell, avoided the stick lift from the back checker and set up Evander Kane with a perfect pass and a wide open net. Unfortunately the shot was deflected. Eichel didn't really make any mistakes, so with the one great play I'll say he played slightly above average.
Cody Franson didn't give the Sabres much on the offensive end, and he missed the pass to Jagr on the Panthers first goal.
It was an uneventful first game for Brian Gionta. His line couldn't get much going and he went unnoticed. He finished with 3 shots in the game.
C : Evander Kane
Kane had the opportunity to tie and win this game for Buffalo. He is here to score goals, and he failed on two different occasions. In the 1st period Kane had a wrap around that was saved, and he had an open rebound, but couldn't lift the puck over Luongo's pad. He had the entire upper part of the net open. Also, in the 2nd period Eichel set him up with a beautiful set up, and an empty net, but Kane couldn't get the puck past the defenseman.
Johnson didn't play terrible and gave the Sabres an opportunity to win the game, but he needed to stop Jagr's second goal. Johnson went down on one knee, and he lazily didn't lift his glove up high enough which left the top corner open. If Johnson is going to sit way back in his crease, he needs to take up more space. Jagr's second goal is a shot that needs to be stopped, plain and simple. It'd be nice to get a great save from your goalie once and a while.